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Saturday, July 25, 2009

FAB Treatments - example



As promised yesterday here is an example from my treatment that made me think about the FAB idea.

I first wrote...
Kelly buys a goldfish so she can say she has to look after her pet and therefore can’t go on the trip.

Common sense said to me that while this was accurate it lacked the meaning of the plot point. And was clunky. So I took it to the next level of why that matters. What is the point of the scene?
Kelly spends the next day furiously trying anything to get out of this horrible task. She even buys a goldfish. Now she can say she has to look after her pet and can’t go away.

But this still didn't quite do it for me - which is why I thought of the FAB idea. What is the benefit to the audience of this scene?
Kelly spends the next day furiously trying anything to get her out of the task. She even buys a goldfish. Now she can say she has to look after her pet and can’t go away. Genius! She could be free of the hideous task. But these ridiculous and desperate schemes infuriate the bosses more. She is out of ideas and out of options - and out of her depth. And so, reluctantly, her journey begins.

I wouldn't take this idea even further and say how the audience would feel. Something, for instance, like "we feel sorry for Kelly" just seems a bit to presumptuous.

Now obviously it is important to note that you can't have just the emotions and audience benefits and none of the plot points. E.g. Kelly fears the task but has to go along with it. That would just leave the reader asking 'Yeah, but how do we see that? How do we know that?" etc.

But a good balance feels right to me.

Treatment purists may disagree. But it helps me when I get stuck and think my treatments are a bit dry and not really capturing the true essence of the story. I guess I am hoping that even if the reader disagrees with the goldfish idea they still pick up on the character point that she is totally desperate not to go.

But, as ever, use at your own risk!

FAB Treatments



I have recently being doing a treatment for a feature script that has gone through to the next round of the rather gung-ho sounding - Ultimate Filmmaker Competition. Perhaps it is like Ultimate Fighting, you know, but for geeks. Anyway, they give you $200k so I'm going for it.

The story could be described as "Short Cuts meets Google Earth" and I last wrote about it on here over a year ago! Current stage: First draft done. Second on the way. Personal view on it: Think it is very exciting, but the episodic structure may causes nervousness in others.

But back to the treatment!

Writers hate treatments. It can seem like scriptwriting with all the fun bits taken out. And can quickly become just a series of plot points. This happened, then that happened etc etc.

This made me think of an old sales technique called F.A.B. Which stands for; Features, Advantages, Benefits. It is to help sell you something by linking it to how it can help you. For example.
  • The new feature of a camera could be image stabilisation.
  • The advantage is - a steady shot in tough conditions.
  • The benefit is - less takes required, less time in post production - all saving money on your film.
So the 'image stabilisation' is just a specification feature. But saving money, shooting quicker - I can feel the benefit to me. And so am more likely to buy.

Same goes for treatments. I was in danger of just making mine a string of plot points. That is just the 'features'. I needed to link that through to how that advances the story and how that benefits the audience's emotional journey - how they would feel.

Or is that too far? Examples to come tomorrow to explore this further.

If you want your own Thunderbirds outfit you can buy one here believe it or not.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The film business in trouble



Spending this afternoon at a local short film screening made me realise again that film makers want to make films. Audiences want to see films.

Despite all issues of piracy, new distribution, lack of funding etc etc - this is fundamentally a system that must work. Supply and demand. The rest is detail.

(Hope was showing there - one of my favourite short works from the past)

Monday, July 06, 2009

3 writing myths challenged


Okay. Here are 3 commonly held beliefs that writers seem to have. All 3 probably need to be blown out of the water. Ready?

One: "You have to change everything when you are adapting for the big screen"
You hear this a lot. That if you are adapting a novel to the big screen you have to change big chunks of it. And probably the ending. I say - not true. You may need to change some intenal thoughts that are on the page and make them dialogue. But the narrative doesn't HAVE to be altered. A story can be moved virtually intact between any dramatic or narrative form. Audiences don't like a radically changed ending. And the excuse of 'different form' is used all to often when it needn't be.
What we actually mean is... I've optioned an arty novel and in fact I wish I'd gone for something more commercial. So I better change it.

Two: "Writers aren't well known."
Again, nonsense. Writers can be famous. Eg. My mum can name Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, Dennis Potter, Richard Curtis etc etc. None of these are writers of modern mainstream Hollywood films. And there is the thing. Mainstream film and TV is about the franchise being bigger than anyone. If you want to be 'a name' then you have to stay smaller. THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE FOR ACTORS. So don't copy them. Writers can be famous and respected. But you have to give somethings up to get there.
What we actually mean is... I'm not famous and its not fair.

Three: "The producers / studio / commissioners aren't fair / don't know what they are doing.
They represent the audience. Does the audience know what it is doing or worry about being fair? No. So there you go. This problem will only go away when you can get 300 random people to agree on what they would like to watch together. So I guess that would be... never. But we all know the solution. We all know what we need to do - keep doing things our way, keep telling our own kind of stories and hope they hit home with folks.
Because what we actually meant was... my latest thing didn't get picked up by the people who said they loved it last time. And I'm going nuts.

Image of magma 'being blown out of the water' from here.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How to win an oscar


From here.

I'd replace the 3 circles for writers looking to win an Oscar with...
  • Underdog wins
  • Hero doesn't die, but others do
  • Makes audience feel okay to duck real issues